India

Anna Hazare in fresh appeal on anti-corruption bill

Anna Hazare
Image caption Anna Hazare is protesting against the government's anti-corruption bill

Leading Indian anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to "show some courage" and withdraw a "weak" anti-corruption bill introduced by the government.

Mr Hazare is taking a month's break after being discharged from a hospital earlier this month.

He fell ill after starting a hunger strike in Mumbai in December and was admitted to hospital in Pune.

Mr Hazare was protesting against the government's anti-corruption bill.

The bill, which envisages setting up an independent Lokpal [ombudsman] with the power to prosecute politicians and civil servants, was passed by parliament's lower house last month but stalled in the upper house.

The bill will now have to be taken up again in the next session of parliament.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Hazare said his movement for a strong anti-corruption ombudsman would continue.

'Show courage'

"You are 80 years old now. The country has given you everything. Now people are asking something in return. Show some courage," he wrote to Mr Singh.

"Show some courage to bring Lokpal to fight corruption. We don't know whether [the ruling] Congress [party] will give you another chance as prime minister but if you do this, the country will always remember you."

Mr Hazare wondered why the federal investigation agency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), was being kept out of the ambit of the planned bill.

"Does the CBI have some files which the government fears? Or is it that they want to misuse CBI to save corrupt ministers?" he wrote.

Mr Hazare's aides say the activist would not campaign in upcoming state elections because of poor health.

The states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur are all going to the polls between 28 January and 3 March.

Mr Hazare and his campaigners, known as Team Anna, had pledged to oppose those parties which were not backing a strong Lokpal bill, with much of their ire directed at the Congress party.

His 12-day anti-corruption hunger strike in August in Delhi became the focus of a national campaign and put pressure on the government to act on the issue.

He started his three-day fast in Mumbai in December but called it off on the second day after his health deteriorated.

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